Today we have guest blogger, Janice Hardy, with us to talk about her process of revising and editing. I first came across Janice on the AW forums and subsequently visited her blog. Her first book in the Healing Wars trilogy, The Shifter, is a great MG read and now her second book Blue Fire is out as well. I can't wait to get my hands on it! I've learned so much from Janice, and I encourage everyone to check out her blog and the tour she's doing over the next month - there are links on her blog. So without further ado, take it away Janice!!
Edits vs. Revisions: One on One Death Match
Edits vs. Revisions: One on One Death Match
You often hear edit and revise used interchangeably, but they really are two different things. Editing is the nitpicky, line by line tweaks that polish your text. Revision is more macro level, changing parts of the story. But how do you know when to use one over the other? I revise first, because that covers the big issues. The things that may take a lot of work. Once the story is unfolding how I want, then I edit, polishing it until it shines.
I like to work from the top down, tackling the largest “problem” first, since odds are that will change other things. There’s no need to polish the text of a paragraph if you might cut that entire scene.
Story & Structure
This is the biggest part of any novel. If these aren’t working, none of the edits you make will do any good. Take a step back and look at your overall story. Is it working? Things may need to be changed, so don’t worry about the smaller “this part is too slow” problems. Does the basic story work and unfold in a way that makes sense? Is the structure working? Do you need more set up and less middle? A longer ending and shorter beginning? Are there too many chapters? Too few? Do you need to break in into parts?
Plot & Stakes
Now look at the plot. Does each plot event advance that story in a logical way? Are there too many subplots? Too few? Check your stakes. Are things going from bad to worse over the course of the novel? Are the stakes worth risking something for?
Characters & POV
Do you have the right characters? Is the protag the best person to tell this tale? Is the antag the right bad guy? Are the secondary characters pulling their weight or are they just hanging around? Are there too many characters? Not enough? Is it told through the right point of view? Are there too many or too few of them?
Once you’ve revised the major pieces, you can get closer and start tweaking the gears of the story. The guts that make it work.
How does your story unfold? Look for those slow spots, the too-fast spots, the jerky spots where the flow feels off. Is there a rise and fall? Does the story feel like it’s moving forward or running around in circles? Are revelations and set pieces happening in the right spots or are they all clumped together?
Scenes & Goals
Check each scene for the POV’s goal, how they plan to get that goal, and what’s at risk if they fail. Do they have a solid goal? (remember, goals can crossover scenes, so they can have the same goal if it takes them a while to resolve it) Is the risk big enough to make the reader worry if they fail? Is the obstacle in their way tough enough so it doesn’t feel like “stuff” just to fill up the story? Does each scene lead logically to the next? Does every scene need to be there? Do you need to add any scenes?
Look at your chapter and scene transitions. The right pieces can be in the right places, but how you move from one to the other determines how much the reader wants to follow you. Do you end a scene or chapter with a carrot to lure the reader to the next scene? Do you start the next scene with a new problem without resolving (even if that means “we need to worry about this later”) the last problem? Exciting enders that don’t lead anywhere get old fast, and stop being exciting once the reader figures out you’re just tricking them.
Character Growth & Story Arcs
I put these together because they often go hand in hand. Look at the story arcs for each character. Does their tale unfold in a way that allows them to grow as a character (even small growth)? Are they learning the things they need to learn for the story? Is there a good mix of character arc revelations and story arc revelations?
By now, the big stuff is done, the story is in good shape structurally, and you’re ready to start the detail work. It’s time to actually edit vs revise.
This is one of the first places I look when I start polishing, because a lot of the other editing issues can be found here. People talking usually pinpoints the story’s “action” (as in, things happening) so they’re also good spots to weave in all the stuff that can slow a story down (but in a way that doesn’t slow it down). Bits of description, backstory, stage direction. These things slip in easier when combined with stuff going on. Is there are unnecessary dialog? Do I have too many tags? Not enough? Can those tags be changed to show action, internalization, setting, etc?
Is there too much? Too little? Is it in the right place? Look for large blocks of paragraphs on the page. Often those blocks are red flags that there’s too much of something going on.
Set off on that adverb hunt, check your prepositions and your classic telling flags, like to, with, saw, looked, etc. Also check for commonly misused words. It is that or who? Effect or affect? Are you using the best word for what you’re trying to say? Often isn’t the same as usually, red isn’t the same as scarlet. What about favorite words? I always have to do a search for just, only, and still.
Rhythm & Flow
How your sentences run together goes a long way to pulling your reader through a story. Are your sentences varied and working with your pacing? Are there too many short choppy sentences in a row? Too many long ones? Does it read awkwardly anywhere? Do you stumble over words or passages? Reading your work out loud can really show you where the stumbling blocks are.
How you choose to work on your novel is up to you, but I’ve found putting myself in the right mindset helps keep me focused on what I’m trying to do. If I’m “revising,” I’m more open to hacking out parts or moving things around, because the text isn’t finished yet. But when I’m “editing,” I’m looking at the individual sentences and not the bigger picture as much. I’m trying to make what’s there the best it can be, not deciding if it should be there at all.
A subtle shift in thought, but sometimes that’s all you need to get the job done.
Blue Fire Blurb
Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.
Janice Hardy Bio
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.
Link to Blue Fire Online Retailers
The Other Side of the Story Blog